13 Apr 2023
It’s the “sport” that’s taking the nation - nay, the world - by storm. People of all ages are going nuts for it. They’re trading in their racquets for paddles. Tennis courts are being co-opted for it. Leagues are forming left and right.
Pickleball has arrived in all its glory… and yes, it’s officially come to the Isle of Palms.
What exactly is pickleball?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, no doubt you’ve heard about the rather unlikely phenomenon that is pickleball.
Basically, it’s like a cross between tennis and badminton, with some qualities of ping pong thrown in for good measure. It’s played on a doubles badminton-sized court with a modified tennis net, using a paddle and a wiffle-like ball with holes in it. Pickleball can be played outside or indoors, as either singles or doubles.
It’s fairly quick and easy for beginners to learn. By nature, pickleball is a friendly and enjoyable game, with a gentler pace than most racquet sports. But make no mistake - people take it seriously, and it can get quite competitive.
In a fun way.
How did it start?
Basically, with three dads and a bunch of their bored kids on Bainbridge Island, off the coast of Seattle, Washington. These three guys - Bill Bell, Joel Pritchard and Barney McCallum - cooked up the game way back in 1965, fashioning their own equipment and making up the rules.
Hey, you’ve got to keep the kids entertained somehow.
Their family loved it, although it took the rest of the world a few decades to catch on and realize what a fun game pickleball is.
The IOP Rec Center to the Rescue
As I’ve blogged about before, the Isle of Palms’ Rec Center is a gem. It’s got athletic facilities of all kinds - tennis courts, basketball courts, gym, baseball/softball field, soccer field, cardio/weight rooms, and even a Frisbee golf course.
Until now, pickleballers here have had to make due on courts designed for other sports. But that’s about to change.
The Recreation Department’s new Director, Karrie Ferrell, recognized the need and did something about it. This past fall, plans got underway to build two brand new, dedicated pickleball courts near the existing tennis and basketball courts.
Karrie had this to say: “The adult and youth tennis program were already very popular here. Pickleball is another great fitness option and perfect for families to enjoy. It’s also a great way to meet other players, whether residents or visitors on the island. We hope our guests enjoy the new, vibrant courts beneath the historical oak trees.”
During construction, they also reoriented and upgraded the two outdoor basketball courts to become true regulation-sized - simultaneously improving grading/crowning to help with water runoff. Now all three sports - tennis, basketball and pickleball - will have courts oriented in the same direction.
Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting!
April just happens to be National Pickleball Month. And what better way to celebrate than to have a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony for the Isle of Palms’ new pickleball courts?
Monday, April 17th at 10:00 a.m. is the big celebration, and all are welcome. The courts are located at the corner of Hartnett Boulevard and 27th Avenue, adjacent to the Rec Center’s ball fields.
The IOP’s pickleball courts will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. The Rec Center will offer private and group lessons for both beginners and intermediates, and they also have a Pickleball Social League, with its next session cranking up in the fall.
Here are some wise tips for getting the most out of your pickleball experience…
1. Warm-up time before the game is important; show up early and take part with other players. When warming up, remember - it’s not only about you. Have a good attitude right off the bat. Be willing to drive, dink, drop, and lob in order to help both your partner and other players feel ready to play.
2. Call out the score, loudly enough so all players can hear. Pickleball scoring can be a bit confusing, even for those who have played the game for a while. It’s even more difficult to keep track when the server isn’t calling out the score. Be sure to call out all three numbers clearly before you begin your motion to serve. When you are the server, take ownership of announcing the score. It benefits everybody.
3. Be social and kind. One of the greatest parts of pickleball is the game’s friendly and social aspect. Without a doubt, when you first started playing, someone kindly allowed you to join in some games and get comfortable with playing pickleball. The greatest thing you can do for the sport is to pay that same kind and generous spirit forward. If you’re playing drop-in, be quick to let others join in the fun. It’s definitely worth it in the long run and helps everyone enjoy themselves.
4. When allowing others to play, don’t take advantage of the weaker player. It follows along with this same spirit of generosity and good sportsmanship. Make sure to share the ball readily, and allow the least skilled player to acclimate and learn at their own pace. Try to minimize coaching them too much.
5. Acknowledge and congratulate great play. Cheer on opposing players when they make a good shot, and take your props when they return the favor. Recognition and encouragement are contagious and help foster goodwill between players both on and off the court.
6. Whatever the outcome, come to the net at the end of the game. The tradition is for all four players to head to the net and tap paddles. Don’t miss this chance to conclude gracefully and congratulate everybody on completing a game together.
7. Keep an eye peeled for opportunities to grab a game of pickleball when you travel, including abroad. Pickleball has taken off in Canada, Europe and Asia. Be sure to follow the local rules, which can vary by location and country.
So come check it out, here on the IOP. You can get a perfectly good set of four premium wood paddles, four pickleballs, four cooling towels and a carrying case for just $36 right now on Amazon.
your Isle of Palms vacation blogger